Why Kensington's Philadelphia Brewing Co. waited 10 years to open a bar

Like the rest of drinking Philadelphia, I have grown to love pop-up beer gardens, sidewalk cafes, and rooftops.

One al fresco option I had not heretofore considered? The peaceful repose of a loading dock.

That is, until I had a drink at Philadelphia Brewing Co., which celebrated its 10th year in business this summer by quietly opening a bar called the Peacock Room. It repurposes a corner of the 1880s Weisbrod & Hess brewery building and spills into several outdoor spaces, including one overlooking what is, it must be said, a very picturesque loading dock in a courtyard with silos and a couple of beer trucks.

Camera icon
The Philadelphia Brewing Co. has opened a bar called the Peacock Room in a corner of the 1880s Weisbrod & Hess brewery building.

Until now, Nancy and Bill Barton and their partner Jim McBride seemed ambivalent about inviting the public into this space, which became home to Philadelphia Brewing in 2007 after the Bartons split with Tom Kehoe of Yards. (I’ve visited, over the years, for free cookouts offered generously to volunteers at neighborhood cleanups, for beer week events, and, once, for a birthday party that ended promptly at 7 p.m., when the bartender screamed at a startling volume for us all to get out.) Though they now brew 18,000 barrels of beer a year, the owners never wanted to make the place too corporate. “We’re sometimes probably too not-corporate,” Nancy Barton said.

But after state law changed in January, clearing the way for tasting rooms serving Pennsylvania-made beer, wine, and spirits, they came around. “It didn’t make sense not to do it,” she said. “It’s an extra source of revenue.”

They brought on Joe Doyle as bar manager and renovated their retail store into the Peacock Room. The name references the building’s heritage: During Prohibition, Weisbrod & Hesse switched from beer to Peacock-brand sodas. The new bar, with pressed-tin ceilings, high-top tables made from barrels, and historic brewery photos, “is almost like a beer museum.”

Camera icon Samantha Melamed
Philadelphia Brewing Co.’s courtyard patio.

Beer is, of course, the specialty, to drink here or to take home in growlers or a mix-your-own-case. Many of the cocktails are also made with Philadelphia Brewing beer or with the company’s Commonwealth Cider. Because I have over these last 10 years drunk roughly my weight in Kenzinger, I opted instead for a drink with a Kenzo-inspired name: “Ricky from Hagert Street,” and immediately put the bartender into the weeds as he hunted for a can of seltzer and sliced open a lime for what was, I assume, the first cocktail ordered that evening. The result, though, was refreshing: made with Rowhouse Spirits gin from just across the street, garnished with fresh mint, and served in a mason jar. Food here is scarce and bougie — there are $5 Bridget Foy spiced nuts and packets of Outlaw jerky — but ordering delivery is encouraged. On my visit, a group of coworkers on a team-building outing brought in a hoagie tray. (The bartender gazed longingly as they packed up their leftovers.)

Part of a vacant lot across the street has been repurposed as a mulched beer garden, scattered with plastic Adirondack chairs and striped umbrellas over low granite slabs. People in tattoos and T-shirts sipped beer and smoked cigarettes as though it were the ’90s all over again. It felt, in some ways, like a throwback to before this neighborhood got trendy — like a place for locals where no one was attempting to show off or pick up. Or, as a friend put it, “You would not need to wax, if you came here, in anticipation of what might happen.”

Then a beer truck pulled up and began idling outside what is, after all, mostly a wholesale brewery. The racket drowned out whatever she said next.

Camera icon YONG KIM
Visitors in the Peacock Room at  Philadelphia Brewing Co.

The Peacock Room

2440 Frankford Ave., 215-427-2739, philadelphiabrewing.com

When to go: Saturday afternoon from noon to 3 p.m. to catch the free tour and beer tasting in the brewery’s main tasting room. The Peacock Room is open 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Bring: Craft beer fans. Promising dates. Your friends who are starting to feel like they’re too old for the Fishtown scene.

Order: A favorite is the Walt Wit, a citrusy, Belgian-style white ale ($5 for a pint). Or, if you’re not a beer person, go for the Rickey from Hagert Street ($8).

Bathroom situation: Single-stall, unisex offerings, with a vintage look in keeping with the historic building (but, thankfully, with flush toilets).

Sounds like: The soundtrack veers toward ’80s nostalgia — the Human League, the Clash — at a reasonable 90 decibels. Outside, it’s the din of whatever’s on Frankford Avenue: buses, dirt bikes, and beer trucks included.